Economic empowerment brings about a complete turnaround for vulnerable families

Nkechinyere lost her shop where she sold food items and fairly used bags to a fire outbreak in Port-Harcourt. In spite of the maternal drive to be strong for her children, she had to move to her husband’s village in Anambra State when her health deteriorated and she was too weak to meet basic needs, she became dependent.

Her husband left her and his family, was no longer as supportive as he was in providing for her and the children. When the ill-treatment became unbearable, she relocated to her home town, Owutu, a local community in Afikpo South LGA of Ebonyi state, to live with her own family, a community where they are predominantly peasant farmers. This was where her children were enrolled, based on vulnerability, into the PEPFAR funded HIFASS-LOPIN 3 project, through WOCHAD, a Community Based Organization, working in the area.  At the time, she became very thin, weak and unable to move around. Her oldest daughter Onyechinyere was saddled with the burden of fending for the family. Nkechinyere tested positive for HIV along with two of her children and they were referred for treatment.

Nkechi did not need hand-outs which would satisfy her temporarily, she needed a source of income that would take her back to a state of independence. She also needed a support system to pull her through her trying time. HIFASS-LOPIN 3 provided a support system by introducing her to the Caregivers’ forum where they discuss issues surrounding health, nutrition, parenting, education and other issues that would benefit them; then gave her a seed grant to start a trade. Her daughter, Onyechinyere was introduced to the Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) club where she learnt to set goals, value and protect herself, the use the word ‘No’. She was trained in hairdressing and received materials to start up her own business – hair dryer, hair wash basin, generator and other items needed for a hair salon.

Nkechinyere’s Caregivers’ forum started a SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Community) group after they all received Financial Literacy training. In the group, they are able to save money regularly and share out at specific times. They also give out loans among themselves from the purse to improve their businesses.

With her seed grant Nkechinyere began selling tomatoes and pepper. Initially, she sold from a sheet spread on the ground, but now has a shed in the market. She has also added pumpkin leaves and Okro to her merchandise. Her daughter, Onyechinyere, went into partnership with someone to get a shop where she makes hair and fixes hair extensions. She also participates in peer education through AGYW (Adolescent Girls and Young Women) meetings and has learnt to set life goals, protect herself and say ‘No’. Nkechinyere and the children who are reactive are all adhering to treatment.

In her words, Nkechinyere is grateful “… for saving my life and entire household from death, empowering me to be able to carter for my children through the LOPIN-3 program. I will encourage other positive caregivers to join the SILC group and to face their positive status with a positive attitude”.  Her daughter Onyechinyere is grateful to the American people for “remembering Nigerian young girls”.

This is one less vulnerable household in the community as income from the mother is supplemented by that from the daughter. All the children, apart from Onyechinyere who is now a hairdresser, are in school and are feeding regularly. This makes them less likely to participate in risky behavior, more hopeful for a better future and eager to help others. Nkechinyere says “I will encourage other positive caregivers to join the SILC group and to face their positive status with a positive attitude”.

 

Disclaimer: This success story was made possible by the kind support from the American people delivered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Health Initiatives for Safety and Stability in Africa (HIFASS) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of USAID or the U.S. Government.

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